Microsoft Windows Vista: Certifiably Terrible

The computer that I am now using (on my vacation) is not mine. Also, it has Microsoft Windows Vista (and, to be sure, no other OSs on it). I am thus stuck with Vista.
When I first started using this computer, to my surprise, it was actually quite quick in loading applications (like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Office 2007). As it turns out, this is because the computer (somehow, for whatever reason) has not been restarted in days. Someone else made the computer shut down about a half hour ago. (UPDATE: This was as of yesterday. I am now typing this from a different computer that uses Microsoft Windows XP. However, I will continue this post.) For one, it took about 5 minutes to shut down because Vista decided to sneak in updates before shutting down; other Windows users have complained about this unwanted behavior, so count me among them as well. Then, when I turned the computer on, I got past the initial screen (allowing for modification of the BIOS) and moved on to the Vista loading screen. One minor complaint I have is that there is no symbol (except for small print at the bottom) to show that this is Windows Vista; previous versions of Windows would have a giant Windows symbol along with the version codename and a loading bar.
Then, the screen went black for 5 minutes (I did, in fact, time this). At first, I thought the computer might have frozen, but then I reminded myself that it may just be taking a very long time to load. (This computer is only about 2 years old, so it is (or should be) much faster than my 6-year old computer.) Sure enough, after those 5 minutes was when I finally saw the login screen. After logging in, it took another 5 minutes to reach a usable instance of Mozilla Firefox (I also timed this). (I used Firefox because (1) it is the browser with which I am most familiar and (2) no major operating system preloads the Firefox libraries, so performance should not be biased due to operating system choice (e.g. Konqueror's libraries are preloaded by KDE, Epiphany's by GNOME, Internet Explorer's by Windows, and Safari's by Mac OS).)
Really? 10 minutes from powering it on to reach a usable webpage?
That is, in a word, ridiculous.


Nerds Against ACTA

You, the readers of this blog, may have seen on this blog's main page a widget calling on citizens of the world to oppose the passage of ACTA. There are a few details listed explaining why ACTA should be opposed; further details can be found by clicking on the widget. (For those wondering why the logo looks like the world superimposed on Mickey Mouse's head's shadow, the reason for this is because Disney is one of the proponents of ACTA and one of the driving forces behind every major copyright extension in the US (which is extended to other countries in the name of parity); each of these extensions has managed to keep Mickey Mouse cartoons under copyright just when they were about to enter the public domain.) Many of the people quoted on that website (in their opposition to ACTA) are also signatories of a report that further details why ACTA is harmful and undemocratic in product and process. The full report can be found here. Along with the usual suspects of border searches and such, the report also lays out why it is harmful to things like medical research and sales in developing countries. There are 2 links to further explanation and analysis, so the report on that website is not that long; it would thus definitely be worth your time to read the report.

On an almost totally unrelated note, I have added a widget to the end of every post allowing you to share any post to a social media site. Right now, I have a bunch of visible options (and if you hover over the "Share" button, you can basically pick whichever site you want to share it — there are over 250 supported sites as far as I know), but I want to be able to pare the list of visible options down to only the ones that you, the readers, most use. I would thus greatly appreciate it if you could respond to the poll below. The poll closes in the early morning hours of 2010 July 14, so please act quickly. If you use sites other than the ones I've listed in the widget, please click "Other" and then specify in the comments section; I will be sure to add these other sites to the visible list.
Thank you so much for your time.
On What Social Media Network(s) Do You Share Blog Posts?



This comes from this article (Reuters through Yahoo! Movies) on how many sites hosting copies of movies are now charging customers to access them.
It's a rather strange turn of events, and one that I do not support, because now, these sites are actually taking revenue from the studios that produced these movies despite offering little to distinguish their copies from the original copies. That said, the benefit to consumers is probably that these uploaded copies are free of the DRM that comes with the original copies — that's what makes them worth buying.
That said, a quote by a Paramount executive (or so the article implies) caught my eye.
But the public needs to know that with such pirated convenience comes the risk of having credit card information ripped off, and problems with spyware contamination are even more common.
They're concerned about spyware contamination on people's computers?
Yes, ripping off credit card information is a real problem, but the spyware contamination bogeyman is nonsense for 2 reasons.
One is that this spyware likely only affects Windows computers. Hence, *nix and Solaris users are probably safe.
The other is that it is positively hypocritical for a Paramount executive to be concerned about spyware contamination through illegally downloaded movies after the Sony-BMG DRM fiasco. After the Sony-BMG music installed rootkits to ensure that the music was legitimate and then wreaked havoc on the user's computer, I have more faith in illegally downloaded movies and music than in DRM-locked movies and music (ideal, of course, would be legally downloaded DRM-free movies and music).

In semi-related news, this article (Mike Masnick, Techdirt) talks about a new appellate court ruling that allows Congress to retroactively reestablish (was that redundant?) copyright over works already in the public domain. Upon reading it, I almost barfed. I can't really add anything to the discussion as the article is very comprehensive and thorough in its explanation and analysis, so I will just ask you to read the article itself (and if you are feeling bold (or bored), read the actual ruling itself, posted right below the article content).


Patenting Yoga is Patently Stupid

Or is it?
It comes from an article I read yesterday in the ([gasp] PRINT!) newspaper. It deals with the commercialization of yoga and the patenting of yogic asanas in the US.
The article says that many asanas are patented in the US, of course just to make a bigger buck. In India, these same asanas cannot be patented as they qualify as "traditional knowledge and methods" (which cannot be commercialized). The problem, of course, is that the US's patent laws preempt all other countries' patent laws, so this may (unfortunately) change in India as well. Thankfully, as it stands, yogic asanas cannot be patented. To ensure that this is so, many (both religious and secular) practitioners of yoga are compiling libraries of asanas and having them approved as "traditional knowledge" to ensure that they can never be patented in India.
I applaud this measure. Sure, companies need to make a buck somehow. But what about those people who practice yoga through traditional means instead of going to a company's yoga program? Would they be patent violators?
Of course, the same goes for the commercialization of ayurveda and basmati rice. As both are part of traditional Indian culture, they will undoubtedly be protected at least initially in India, but not in the US. In fact, ayurveda already goes under several different trademarked names in the US, while basmati rice has been patented by an agricultural company (oh, the gall!). The problem eventually becomes, in each case, the US's broader patent laws causing other countries legislating to achieve parity in the scope of patents. This means, then, that traditional practitioners of ayurveda would eventually be considered patent violators; something similar to the effort to stop the patenting of yogic asanas would need to be undertaken here. The case of basmati rice is more serious; farmers of basmati rice in India who already make pretty meager livelihoods (at best) would be completely put out of business.


FOLLOW-UP: The Film Industry's Next Avatar

This comes from this article (writer Enigmax, Torrent Freak) on filmmaker Enzo Tedeschi's plan to distribute his new movie The Tunnel for free through torrent sites. (Yes, I know the site is called "Torrent Freak", but the article is mostly quotes from Tedeschi himself apart from the introduction about the evils of Hollywood's modus operandi.) People get to buy individual frames of the movie for $1 each — $25 gives one second of the movie (because this movie has a frame rate of 25 FPS), so $1500 gets a full minute of the movie. Along with this, one randomly selected investor gets a 1% cut of the profits (as a sort of investment lottery). Follow the jump for my take.


HP Printers Now Ad Vectors

This comes from an article (Jeremy Kirk, Computer World) about HP's new line of web-connected printers. It describes how HP is collaborating with Yahoo! with regard to its new web-connected printers to also provide targeted advertisements to users. Naturally, I am suspicious. Follow the jump for the rest of my take.


Windows 7 on Netbooks?

As per my usual habits, I was browsing Wikipedia's article on Asus and clicked on the link to the article on the Eee PC. I read that Microsoft is working with Asus to optimize Windows 7 for the next generation of the Eee PC.
While I don't like Microsoft, I believe they shouldn't be shut out of the development process entirely. That said, I believe they are misguided in their efforts. (I also truly hope that Asus doesn't drop Linux support on the Eee PC.)
I believe that Apple (whom I also don't particularly like for some of its products and practices) really hit gold by releasing the iPad with essentially an enlarged and enhanced version of the iPhone OS. There was a big controversy at the time of development whether the iPad should have a shrunken-down, stripped version of Mac OS X, an enhanced version of the iPhone OS, or an entirely new operating system altogether. Ultimately, the second option won out, because it is easy to scale up a simple OS than scale down a complex OS. Also, the iPhone OS already had touchpad capabilities, while this would have had to be worked into Mac OS X somehow for compatibility with the iPad. As a result, the iPad is really fast (as it also has much better hardware than the iPhone) and is quite easy to use.
On the other hand, I really don't enjoy using netbooks with desktop OSs like Windows XP, desktop Ubuntu, or desktop Fedora. (Full disclosure: I really don't like netbooks, period. The minimum size I can easily use is about a 12" screen-size laptop.) These OSs are all quite sluggish on netbooks' minimal hardware and look really cramped on small screens. On the other hand, OSs like Ubuntu Netbook Edition (formerly Ubuntu Netbook Remix), Fedora for netbooks, and Jolicloud OS are optimized and hence fly on netbooks.
This, I believe, is the path Microsoft should follow in its development plans with Asus. It already has a mobile OS in the form of Windows Mobile. It could probably just scale that up for netbook use - as mobile phones have much less powerful hardware than netbooks, Windows Mobile would just positively scream on netbooks. On the other hand, Windows 7 scaled down for netbooks would suffer from the same problems that plague standard versions of Windows XP, Ubuntu, and Fedora on netbooks (e.g. sluggishness, a cramped UI, taxing hardware requirements). Hence, the push for Windows 7 is misguided.


My Blogging Wavelength Increases

(The title really means, "my blogging frequency decreases". Get it? Heh heh. [cricket chirp])
I am going to be out of town for 2 months, so I definitely will not be able to blog as much. Sorry about that. I am excited about the vacation, but I may not have 24/7 access to a computer.
On the upside, the FIFA 2010 World Cup has begun! Yay!


Review: KDE 4.4

Today, I am reviewing KDE 4.4.
Well, I couldn't. Before you tar and feather me (appropriate, no?), hear me out. (This is also why I have no screenshots for you, dear readers, today.)
I installed all of the KDE "standard" (not "full" or "minimal") packages in Synaptic. That said, I had installed some packages like KolourPaint and KPackageKit already. This may have contributed to the issue.
After all that was said and done, I closed all of my applications, logged out of GNOME, and logged into KDE. I saw the beautiful KDE splash screen followed by...a really messed up background and no Plasma Panel. The KDE Migration Assistant opened and froze. I tried to do something — anything — to no avail. Frustrated, I logged out, logged back in, and found the same problem. I restarted and tried again, finding myself again with the same problem.
I have come to the conclusion that maybe I should have installed all of the KDE packages at once instead of installing isolated ones first before installing the "standard" collection of packages. That said, I am very disappointed at what has happened today. Hopefully this does not occur on other computers.
On a related note, desktop effects work on my computer now! Yay!
UPDATE: I searched for my problem on the Internet and found out that I hadn't installed the "kubuntu-desktop" package. Sadly, fixing this didn't fix the problem. I tried installing all of the other related KDE packages as well, to no avail. KDE 4.4 seems to be (at the moment, on my computer) a lost cause.


Pearson Owns the System!

I found out today that my school system has essentially sold itself out to Pearson Education in a multimillion dollar contract, which is peanuts compared to the size of the budget, etc.
While I can't help but be suspicious about this move, after reading the proposal submitted (or, at least, the first 5 pages of it) by Pearson, I am a little calmed by the fact that Pearson describes itself as committed to "open industry standards for interoperability".
Of course, Microsoft says the same quite often, and yet we all know how that turns out in the end. (That is what the cynical side of me is telling me.)
Let's see how this turns out, though I am a bit wary.
Oh Tim, whatever happened to the school system?


Statins in Hot Water

This comes from a discussion I was having with my family about the UK's National Health Service proposing putting statins in drinking water to combat the widespread problems of high cholesterol and triglycerides resulting from widespread obesity. While the idea was floated as early as 2004 (it may have been even earlier, but that was the earliest BBC.com news story I could find about it), as far as I know, it came up again just a few months ago.
Follow the jump to read my take on it.


How the Economics of Rewards Relates to Open Source

As I just noticed, this is post #10000000_2, #80_16, or #200_8! (The underscore separates the number (on the left) from the base system (on the right).)
I got the idea for this post from a video embedded in an article on the website The Linuxologist. It deals with how incentives affect people's performance - specifically the incentive of a higher reward for better performance. Follow the jump to read the rest.



I have graduated!
Yet, a really long and grueling week lies ahead.
As after next Friday I will be out of the country, my blogging will become much less frequent. Don't expect to see updates very often. However, this blog is not dead.